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The Reproductive Care Crisis: My Experience with CPCs

Conner Sokolovic, NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina Intern and East Carolina University Senior 

It was a sunny morning in Greenville, NC, the home of East Carolina University. After a brief drive, I parked in the back lot and walked around the side of the building, concealed for the most part from the main street. “Carolina Pregnancy Center” was lettered on the door. I walked into the small, vacant lobby and took a moment to look at the numerous brochures they had available. The brochures ranged from vague and general information about the center to advertisements for maternity houses (pro-life, religious compounds for pregnant women to stay at during pregnancy), and adoption agencies. None of the brochures provided information for abortion providers or services. Upon closer inspection it was apparent that every brochure was heavily laden with religious (Christian) references and overtones, foreshadowing an agenda that has less to do with helping women and more with promoting ideology.

Eventually, the receptionist came out of a back room, and I began giving her the story – which I rehearsed in my head during the car ride there – about a close friend who was pregnant and wanted information regarding her options. She responded, in what seemed to be a speech more overtly rehearsed than my own, by insisting my “friend” set up an appointment to undergo an ultrasound as soon as possible. When I asked if there was any information that I could bring to my friend, she told me that they did not keep their pregnancy options information in the public waiting room (red flag, anyone?). However, after a little more talking, I convinced her to go into the back area to try get me more information. I like to indulge myself in imagining that this success was due to my charm and charisma, but it is much more likely she was simply new. I heard some muffled talking in the back, and when she emerged, she informed me that the information would be available when my “friend” came in for her appointment. Then, she steered our conversation in the direction of the door. I don’t know about you, but when I think about organizations that claim to help women, I don’t think “clandestine” should be the first word to come to mind.

Carolina Pregnancy Center is one of many so-called Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs). They grossly outnumber abortion providers nationally, especially now in the wake of recently passed restrictive legislation. In North Carolina alone, CPCs outnumber abortion providers 8 to 1, and they position themselves in close proximity to universities. In short, CPCs are designed to attract young women looking to evaluate their options regarding pregnancy, and use any means necessary to convince them not to have an abortion. These centers are fueled by religious dogma, and funded by religious organizations. . . and your tax dollars! In the 2013-2015 North Carolina budget, lawmakers allocated $250,000 of YOUR taxpayer dollars to the Carolina Pregnancy Care Fellowship, an umbrella organization that supports more than half of North Carolina’s CPCs. Some states have adopted measures that require these centers to clearly identify that they are not a medical clinic and to not flat out lie. CPCs will shamelessly look someone in the eye and tell them that abortions are linked to cancer. That is one of the many documented completely ridiculous lies that an overwhelming majority of these centers tell.

At East Carolina University, the Crisis Pregnancy Center is located closer to some of the dorms than the actual Student Health Center. It has an extremely well made (and well paid-for) website, and still comes up close to the top of any search engine results that use “pregnancy” and related terms. I grew up in Greenville, and I used to attend church in my middle school and early high school years. I remember the church provided opportunities every summer to volunteer at the Carolina Pregnancy Center. It’s unsettling that these facilities are so inextricably tied to churches. It scares me that, should someone seek advice from a person in their church community regarding a pregnancy, they will likely be referred to avatar_1a70cdc5c2df_512a CPC.

At NC State University, where my younger sister will begin her first year this fall, there are even brochures for a CPC, located just blocks away, mixed in with factual information and referrals to actual medical facilities. I am not only worried about her, but about all of the potentially affected college students.

What we need to do, since we now know the full scope and scale of our problem, is address it whenever possible. Inform your friends about CPCs, and check your university’s website and student health centers for any information that would serve as a referral to a CPC. Then, take action to get it removed! After all, this is ultimately a battle of education.

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Governor McCrory Receives a Failing Grade

Julie Tulbert, Policy Intern and William & Mary Law School Student

Earlier this month, Governor Pat McCrory signed into law an expansion of the waiting period for abortion, signaling his continued inability to both keep his promise and to listen to the people of North Carolina. McCrory took office in 2013 because of his perceived ability to compromise with Democrats on important issues, including not expanding restrictions on abortion. McCrory quickly proved his untrustworthiness with the signing of the Motorcycle Vagina Bill. House Bill 465 serves as another step by McCrory and the Republicans in the General Assembly to take us, not back in time, but to a new time of government-controlled abortion access.

The Governor and the Republicans refused to listen to any reasonable voices before the ratification of this bill. After the introduction of the bill on April 1st, we tried to show that the bill had no basis in medical science through the expert opinions of local OB/GYNs and other medical professionals. The Governor and the legislators had these experts available for information, but the politicians decided once again that they knew more about healthcare than the professionals.

Republicans in the General Assembly framed the debate as protecting the rights of women through allowing women to take more time for consideration before having the abortion. A forced, mandatory waiting period protects only the rights of the government to control women further in our own personal decisions. This is a quintessential example of too much government interference the Republicans should be against. But they aren’t. Behind these types of laws, stands the idea that women are not able to think for themselves – that the government must set aside this time period for women to be forced to contemplate their basic right of bodily integrity.

Another provision in the law contains an even worse violation of the right to privacy. Physicians must submit information to the Department of Health and Human Services if they perform abortions after 16 weeks. This information includes an ultrasound image of the fetus. This part of the law suggests a new wave of government oversight taken to the extreme. This requirement operates as a way to discourage doctors from performing abortions by creating more hurdles, but it also puts doctors and women on notice that the 20-week abortion ban stands in North Carolina. The law requires that if a doctor performs an abortion after the 20th week, they must also submit what was the emergency that required the abortion.

While this provision is egregious on its own, it will also function as a precedent for further laws surveilling the choices of women and their doctors in North Carolina. Politicians will second-guess the medical opinion of doctors as to the age of the fetus between the 16th and 20th weeks and what is an “actual” medical emergency after the 20th week. We may see that what classifies as an emergency will be restricted further and further as more of this type of information comes in. More women in North Carolina may be subjected to civil or criminal penalties for seeking post-20 wIMG_1955eek abortions not deemed an “emergency.”

The Governor has allowed this potential future for North Carolina. Beyond the medical opinion of doctors, the Governor ignored the voice of his own citizens – we collected over 16,000 petition signatures from North Carolinians urging him to veto the bill. He did not. He refused to even meet with us when we delivered the petitions. Governor McCrory well deserves the grades we gave him on our Majority Report Card – all Fs. He failed the women of North Carolina by denying their basic rights and allowing a dangerous bill to become law without listening to reason. We can no longer have faith in the Governor to keep his promises when he has violated our trust too many times. We must also let the Governor and the Legislature know that these significant restrictions on our rights will not be tolerated.

Julie

Intern Reflects on Women’s Rights Moral Monday

Julie Tulbert, Policy Intern and William & Mary Law School Student 

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I was excited to attend my first Moral Monday protest for an issue near and dear to my heart – women’s rights. The press conference and protest was held in the rotunda of the North Carolina General Assembly. This proved a great advantage as the 100+ crowd seemed even larger as the voices of the speakers and the protesters echoed off the circular walls.

Speakers from different organizations addressed a variety of issues affecting North Carolina women. NARAL Pro-Choice NC Board Chair, Jina Dhillon, addressed the recently enacted House Bill 465 that tripled the waiting period for abortions and requires doctors to submit ultrasounds to Department of Health and Human Services. Speakers from Moms Rising talked about the impact of environmental justice on women and families and also how the General Assembly has made it harder for moderate income families to access healthcare. Several speakers voiced concern about how the General Assembly is failing to protect the rights of teachers, particularly relevant when the majority of teachers in North Carolina are women. Food access for the whole state (not just Raleigh) was addressed by the Fertile Ground Food Coop.

Young political activist Maddie Kimrey gave a rousing speech on a number of concerns for North Carolina women, including the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment, which is in the NC Senate now as Senate Bill 184, but hasn’t seen any movement since March. Discussing in conjunction with H.B. 465, Kimrey stated, “I refuse to accept that men who think I need 72 hours to make decisions about my own healthcare refuse to devote any of their hours to a nonpartisan solution to address pay inequality, workplace discrimination, and violence against women.”

The feeling I took away from my first Moral Monday is that we are stronger as a community, but that also, as women, we cannot be pigeonholed as just being for one issue or another. We are from diverse backgrounds and have diverse goals in the fight for women’s equality here in North Carolina. When we choose to support and listen to each other to achieve this ultimate goal, we are certainly a force to be reckoned with, and the North Carolina General Assembly better watch out!

You can see the entire Women’s Rights Moral Monday rally here! Check out the NC NAACP website for the 2015 Summer of Moral Resistance events schedule. We encourage you to join us tomorrow for Voting Rights Moral Monday!

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Why are NC abortion rates declining?

Last week the Associated Press released new data showing that abortion rates are declining in nearly all states – including North Carolina. While anti-choice leaders are heralding these dropping abortion rates as proof of the success of anti-abortion legislation, this is far from the truth.

Since 2008, North Carolina has had the second-largest decline in abortion of all states that keep such statistics. Some people mistakenly credit the state’s abortion restrictions with this decrease in abortions, but the answer is more nuanced than that.

There has been a significant decline in both birth and abortion rates in many states, including North Carolina, since 2008.  These declines pre-date the introduction of many restrictive abortion policies, which began to surge in 2011, including here in North Carolina.  Decreased abortion and birth rates basically means that fewer women are getting pregnant; thus fewer women needing abortions or having babies.  Decreased pregnancy rates are most likely due to increases in highly effective, long-acting contraceptive use, which has skyrocketed in the last decade, from about 2% to almost 10% among reproductive-aged women.  The Healthy Youth Act, which broadened the public schools curriculum to include more information on how to prevent pregnancy, may also have played a role in the decrease in abortion rates in North Carolina. Restrictive laws do not decrease abortion rates; access to effective, long-acting contraception does.

The recently adopted abortion restrictions in anti-choice House Bill 465 – including a 72-hour waiting period for women seeking abortion services – will not decrease abortion rates. These restrictions are medically unnecessary. The American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists both oppose waiting periods for abortion care for two main reasons: they have no medical value and they often cause unnecessary mental distress for patients. The truth is that medically accurate sex ed and access to highly effective contraception are the best ways to lower unplanned pregnancy rates, and thus to lower abortion rates. Limiting women’s access to safe, legal abortion has no such result.

Shoshannah Sayers is the Interim Executive Director for NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina. She may be reached at shannah@ProChoiceNC.org or (919) 908-9321.

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Governor McCrory breaks his campaign promise…again

On Wednesday evening, Governor McCrory stated that he planned on signing the controversial HB 465 when it reached his desk. The Governor’s statement came hours after the House voted 71 to 43 to make the bill, which includes a 72-hour abortion waiting period, law in North Carolina.

The Governor’s decision came as a shock to those who had trusted him to stay true to his word. During his 2012 campaign, McCrory promised he would not sign any additional restrictions on abortions into law. However in 2013, he signed a bill creating unnecessary regulations for abortion clinics and further restricting insurance coverage of abortions. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, it was expected that when faced with a blatant abortion restriction, the Governor would veto the bill. It is clear now that McCrory has no intention of keeping his campaign promise. He is happy with the revised version of the bill; he has declared that it will positively protect women’s health.

The HB 465 that the Governor plans to sign looks nothing like the bill that was first introduced in April, with one exception: the mandated 72-hour waiting period.

20150604_130241The initial version of the bill included strong restrictions on the ability of doctors and UNC system hospitals to perform safe abortions. The final version leaves out the restrictions on UNC but adds in tougher laws against statutory rape and sex offenses. It also adds protections for victims of domestic violence. With the second edition of the bill, it appeared that the Legislature had realized the error of their ways and the absurdity of preventing one of the best ob-gyn programs in the country from teaching this family planning skill. Unfortunately, that clarity did not last long. Within weeks, without providing a reason, the Republican-controlled Senate decided to dump unrelated criminal justice provisions into the bill.

Throughout all these revisions, the 3-day waiting period has remained unaltered in any way. The Governor’s expression of satisfaction makes it clear that he has no comprehension of the dangerous effects of a waiting period. Not only do they have no medical benefit and will do nothing to protect women’s health, but in fact waiting can have a negative impact on women, both physically and emotionally. Not to mention, that imposing a waiting period on women implies that they are overly emotional and incapable of making life-impacting decisions without being forced to have extra time to think about it. It is insulting that McCrory and the legislators who voted for the bill believe that North Carolina women are too irrational to make decisions about their own bodies without government hand-holding.

Well, Governor, fortunately we haven’t yet been considered too irrational to make our own voting decisions, and we will remember this when we go to the polls in 2016.

Governor McCrory must veto HB465

Anti-choice HB 465 one step closer to becoming law

Tonight the Senate voted to pass its version of House Bill 465.

The version of the bill passed by the House last month includes extending the mandatory delay for women seeking an abortion from 24 hours to 72 hours.  Such a delay has no medical basis, and in fact contradicts recommendations from the World Health Organization.  The bill also requires doctors to submit detailed, private information including ultrasound pictures, to the to the Department of Health and Human Services — for no medical reason.  These provisions would make North Carolina one of only a handful of states in the country to have such extreme and intrusive abortion restrictions.

In a politically motivated move, the Senate expanded the bill to include provisions that would toughen statutory rape and sex offender laws and provide stronger protection for victims of domestic violence.  During last week’s committee hearing, Senator Jeff Jackson urged the committee to separate the criminal justice items into their own bill, but Senate Republicans voted against the amendment.

What we are left with is an extreme, anti-choice bill that will harm women in this state.

HB 465 will now be considered in the House, where it may be amended or passed in its current form. If passed, it will head to Governor McCrory’s desk.

Governor McCrory demonstrated great courage last week with his vetoes of the magistrate recusal bill and the “Ag Gag” bill. We are hopeful that he will veto HB 465, if it reaches his desk. In his 2012 campaign, the Governor vowed that he would not approve any more restrictions on a woman’s right to abortion. We look forward to seeing him keep that promise.

We urge all pro-choice North Carolinians to sign the petition reminding Governor McCrory about his 2012 campaign promise not to allow further restrictions on abortion access. The Governor must veto House Bill 465.

 

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HB465 Hearing and Moral Monday – 5/27

As debate raged in the House yesterday about SB2, which would allow magistrates to refuse to facilitate same-sex marriages, the Senate Judiciary Committee discussed and advanced a modified version of HB465. From the House bill, this version retained the extension of the waiting period for an abortion to 72 hours and the reporting requirements to the Department of Health and Human Services for physicians performing abortions late in the second trimester. The substitute bill added several unrelated provisions, including Democratic Sen. Jeff Jackson’s two bills modifying statutory rape and sex offender laws in North Carolina. Sen. Jackson’s motion to divorce these provisions from the bill, in an attempt to avoid “gotcha” type strategies and playing politics with important issues, was denied during the committee meeting.

CGCrI9pVAAA_7iA.jpg-largeIn a packed room, the Senate Judiciary Committee debated why the reporting requirements mandated that physicians performing abortions submit an ultrasound image of the fetus to DHHS. Republican Sen. Joyce Krawiec said the ultrasound image was required in order to determine if the fetus was at least 16 weeks, which is the beginning time frame for doctors to submit reports to DHHS under this bill. Democratic Sen. Terry Van Duyn questioned whether this was simply a way to second guess the decision-making capacity of doctors.

Democratic Sen. Erica Smith-Ingram also questioned why the waiting period for abortions needed to be extended an extra 48 hours from the current 24 hours in place. Sen. Krawiec justified the extension by likening it to other decisions that people wait on, like buying a house. Public comments on both sides also focused on the added time frame. Dr. Amy Bryant stated that the additional wait time would only delay needed care and that women have already carefully consider their options before going to their doctors.

Sen. Paul Lowe Jr. made an excellent point, begging the question of why ultrasounds were even necessary to begin with. No one could give him an answer, and the topic was quickly changed while they skirted around answering his question. This would lead one to wonder how much the proponents of HB465 really “care” about women and children, or if they are just doing everything they can to advance a party-line, theological agenda.

Later, Democratic Rep. Tricia Cotham was quoted as saying, “Proponents stated that ‘women need more time to make decisions’ and they have so many ’emotions’ and ‘hormones,’ and it ‘takes longer for them to gather information.’ So, I sure hope our Female Senators are allowed 72 hours before this vote. Because, of course, they need more time.” Female Senators were not given additional time, as after an hour of debate and public comments, the bill advanced from the committee to debate on the Senate floor the following day.

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This, and many other issues were discussed at the Moral Monday event that immediately followed the hearing of HB465. The main issues at hand for the day’s protests were environmental justice and healthcare issues, with many visible signs that displayed messages that spoke out against various topics, including: offshore drilling on the NC coast, taxing the poor, cutting medicare and medicaid, and of course HB465 and its mandated 72-hour waiting period.